David Adjaye

New Studio Museum . Harlem


Adjaye Associates . New Studio Museum

The Studio Museum in Harlem will construct a new home on Manhattan’s West 125th Street, replacing its current facility with a structure designed expressly for its program by architect David Adjaye in collaboration with Cooper, Robertson & Partners, the project’s executive architects and project planning consultants.


Undertaken as a public-private initiative with support from the City of New York, the five-story, 71,000-square- foot project will provide the custom-built and expanded facilities, enriched visitor experience and strong architectural presence appropriate to a premier center for contemporary artists of African descent, the principal visual art institution in Harlem and a magnet for visitors from around the world. The new building will enable the Studio Museum to better serve its growing and diverse audiences, provide additional educational opportunities to museumgoers from toddlers to seniors, expand its world-renowned exhibitions of art by artists of African descent and influenced and inspired by black culture, and effectively display its singular collection of artwork from the nineteenth century to the present day.
With construction expected to be in progress by 2017, the project will add to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Studio Museum, which opened in 1968 in a rented loft at Fifth Avenue and 125th Street and has been operating since 1982 in a century-old commercial building renovated for it by the celebrated African-American architect J. Max Bond, Jr.

The conceptual design draws on and transforms characteristic aspects of Harlem’s architecture, including its brownstones and churches. The masonry-framed windows of the neighborhood’s apartment buildings have inspired a rhythmic facade composed of windows of varying sizes and proportions. Inside the museum, the radiant, soaring volumes of church sanctuaries will find an equivalent in a toplit central hall, with ample wall area to install large-scale works of art. A switchback stair rising through four floors will create multiple look-out points from the landings. Throughout the building, visitors will have ample opportunities to contemplate both the museum interior and the vibrant streetscape outside, creating an experience anchored firmly in the history and community of the Harlem neighborhood.
To add to the building’s street presence and emphasize the museum’s function as a gathering place, Adjaye has conceived a 199-seat “inverted stoop”: a set of descending steps that begins at the sidewalk and leads down to the lower level, which can be used as a stage for lectures, screenings and performances. Thanks to the transparency of the building at sidewalk level, people on 125th Street will feel drawn into the liveliness of this unprecedented gathering place and be able to join it at will, since the Studio Museum anticipates that the entrance and lower levels will be accessible free of charge during normal museum hours.
The conceptual design proposes galleries sensitively configured in varying proportions and scales to accommodate the wide variety of works in the permanent collection and many sizes and types of temporary exhibitions. Studios for the artists in residence, staff offices and education spaces will be thoughtfully designed and fully-equipped for maximum efficiency, flexibility, accessibility and comfort.


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